Because many natural resources are limited, sustainability becomes an important concept in maintaining the human population, health, and environment. Mushrooms are a group of saprotrophic fungi. Mushroom cultivation is a direct utilization of their ecological role in the bioconversion of solid wastes generated from industry and agriculture into edible biomass, which could also be regarded as a functional food or as a source of drugs and pharmaceuticals. To make the mushroom cultivation an environmentally friendly industry, the basic biology of mushrooms and the cultivation technology must be researched and developed. This is very true for Lentinula edodes, Volvariella volvacea, and Ganoderma lucidum, which are commonly consumed in Asian communities but are now gaining popularity worldwide. Besides the conventional method, strain improvement can also be exploited by protoplast fusion and transformation. Biodiversity is the key contribution to the genetic resource for breeding programs to fulfill different consumer demands. The conservation of these mushrooms becomes essential and is in immediate need not only because of the massive habitat loss as a result of human inhabitation and deforestation, but also because of the introduced competition by a cultivar with the wild germ plasm. Spent mushroom compost, a bulky solid waste generated from the mushroom industry, however, can be exploited as a soil fertilizer and as a prospective bioremediating agent.
2000 by The Applied Microbiology, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences Research Foundation